CBS develops dashboard on well-being in times of coronavirus
Statistics Netherlands (CBS) aims to make interpretation and implementation of its figures as easy as possible for its users. This is why dashboards are increasingly being introduced in order to represent the figures graphically. A fine example is the dashboard that was launched on 5 September 2020 under the name ‘Welvaart in coronatijd’ (‘Well-being in times of coronavirus’). It has been a major success, with more than 85.000 website visitors viewing it over the past month. It was also shared 177 times through various news websites.
CBS researcher Hans Langenberg is one of the people who initiated the dashboard. He chairs a working group responsible for the publication of news content with CBS’ information on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, including, for example, the impact on the economy, health, mobility and the housing market. ‘CBS has been very active since the outbreak of COVID-19. We’ve published a lot of COVID-19 related news, but in addition Acting Director General Bert Kroese wanted to see an overarching concept which would give an insight into the effects of the COVID-19 crisis at a glance. The idea arose when Bert Kroese was holding a meeting on COVID-19 with the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER). That is when we decided to produce a special dashboard.’
The inspiration for this dashboard partly came from the ‘Monitor of Well-being & the Sustainable Development Goals’. CBS publishes this Monitor annually on the occasion of Accountability Day. When it appeared last May, a portion of the figures were already outdated, since we weren’t able to include any figures on the effects of the coronavirus crisis. That’s why it was important to come up with up-to-date information.’
The selection of themes and indicators in the new dashboard is mainly a pragmatic one, according to Langenberg. ‘Which indicators say something about developments in society since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis? For this only indicators are suitable which are published on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. Most of the indicators are available within CBS; some are provided by external parties.’ Langenberg says the decision to create a dashboard with graphs was a conscious one: ‘The graphs immediately show how in particular cases, e.g. air and road traffic, things collapsed from one moment to the next.’ The current dashboard shows the latest available figures for nine different sets of indicators, including mortality, active labour force, gross domestic product, private consumption, marriage registrations, etc.
CBS Director Henk Verduin has been closely involved with the CBS working group responsible for COVID-19-related news publications. He is very positive about the collaboration with two external parties providing information for the dashboard ‘Well-being in times of coronavirus’. ‘We’ve made use of the data provided by Translink and the National Data Warehouse for Traffic Information. Translink has data on the number of passengers in public passenger transport; the National Data Warehouse for Traffic Information has data on road traffic intensity. This collaboration is therefore very important to us, also in the future.’
In the coming period, the dashboard will be further expanded by adding new indicators and at least one more theme. ‘We hope we’ll be able to include the theme of well-being next month. Normally we only have annual figures on this topic, but now quarterly figures are in the making. This was previously also done with data on health. In other areas as well, CBS has accelerated the publication of statistics because of the coronavirus crisis, so we’ve been able to include a lot of recent weekly and monthly figures in the dashboard.’ Verduin stresses that CBS wants to introduce this dashboard to a wider range of target audiences: ‘For example, by promoting the dashboard in an easily accessible way through the customary internet channels. In addition, we’re issuing regular news releases about the situation in the Netherlands in times of coronavirus.’
Also closely involved in the project was Mart Landman, who joined CBS as a developer of data visualisations on 1 June of this year. His first big assignment was the technical development of this dashboard. ‘It was an interesting challenge, because the aim was to have as many dashboard indicators as possible receive automatic updates. This was completed successfully. The dashboard has been adopted as an example for the automation of other CBS dashboards, for example the labour market dashboard and the dashboard on traffic and transport. Langenberg, Verduin and Landman all look back on a very positive experience in terms of the operation. ‘It was extremely interesting to be working on this. We had excellent collaboration, both within and outside of the organisation. We received loyal support from everyone involved.’